Char Bagh at the Jaipur Literature Festival was host to two economy experts this afternoon, Mukulika Banerjee and Ravi Venkatesan, to discuss the contradictions of growth and development.
Venkatesan began by saying that contrary to general belief, growth and development have to coexist and reinforce one another rather than work versus one another. “Growth alone is not enough but certainly necessary for any type of development to happen alongside sensible policies and responsible institutions”. Speaking on the issue of quality and productivity, Venkatesan states that you can either have good quality or inexpensive service, a choice of one or the other which comes up in many areas, but “what you are looking for is the right model”.
Mukulika states that development to a common man in India still means water and electricity. She mentions the fact that in the last few years there have been radical social changes and sensitization to the common man’s problems and needs but not as much economic growth, so can we attribute the former as a measure for development?
Venkatesan shows concern that India ranks at the bottom of the list of countries best to set up businesses in. The difficulty of setting up businesses in India is due to too many successful businesses depending on access to resources, leaving no place for new entrepreneurial projects. Both members of the panel agree that what is surprising is that even the elite and the privileged are affected by the development of the country, faced with corrupt justice system and bad politics.
Talking about new government policy for companies to pay 2% to CSR, Venkatean feels that NGOs in India do not have the capacity to absorb that much- an amount that is as much as 2,000 cr. It will be misspent and would be better used in helping fresh entrepreneurs in their start up and skill development. Government policy decisions, not just economic, but also structural are at the heart of the development of a nation.
Makulika said the focus should be on corporate social responsibility, she emphasized that even though one cannot ensure that corporates will focus on social upliftment, political policies must be in place in order for that to happen. Corporates concerned with social welfare alongside their personal profits, combined with government policies that make it a reality, will cause the system to tip in the more positive direction.
By Yuvraj Malik and Beatrice Champ